Laura Waters

New York Times Buries the Lede on Opt-Out

Buried at the bottom of today’s New York Times front page article on the opt-out movement is this:
Many local parents, however, said they had their children skip the tests not because they were afraid of the results, but because they felt they put too much stress on students, for example, or because they wanted to make a statement on behalf of teachers. In March, Governor Cuomo, dismayed at the large percentage of teachers getting high ratings, succeeded in tying teacher evaluations and tenure decisions more closely to the tests. If fewer than 16 tests are available to apply to a teacher’s score, however, which appears quite likely in many cases this year, districts will have to produce an alternative rating method, such as using the scores of other students in the school.
Certainly, New York’s teachers union isn’t nearly as militant as New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which has taken on as its raison d’etre a richly-funded campaign against New Jersey's 2012 teacher tenure law that ties 10 percent of standardized test scores to teacher evaluations, and which NJEA leaders supported. In New York it's 50 percent, so the tests are clearly high-stakes for teachers and the ire more understandable. Fifty percent is too much. Governor Cuomo overshot that one. But 10 percent renders the testing-evaluation link low stakes for everyone, including teachers, and makes NJEA's stance untenable. It also places union leaders in direct opposition to  major civil and human rights groups that support accountability. The Times article notes this opposition:
Of particular concern is that without reliable, consistent data, children in minority communities may be left to drift through schools that fail them, without consequences. This month, a dozen civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released a statement saying they were opposed to “anti-testing efforts” because tests provide data crucial for catching and combating inequities in public schools. “When parents ‘opt out’ of tests—even when out of protest for legitimate concerns—they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child,” the statement said.
Laura Waters writes about New Jersey education politics and policy for WHYY’s Newsworks and NJ Spotlight. She is a mother of four and has been a school board member in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, for 10 years. An original version of this post appeared on her blog, NJ Left Behind.
Laura Waters
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for ...

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